By Jodi Selby, vice president – senior risk operations and compliance manager; and Jayme Fry, vice president – commercial relationship manager, Bankers Trust
When you think about career development or professional development opportunities, what comes to mind? Most often it’s trainings, conferences, professional organizations and master’s programs. But when you think about your own career journey, what has been the key to your success so far? For many women, including the two of us, it’s not a traditional learning experience, it’s the people around us.
While we work together at Bankers Trust, we’ve ventured through different career paths – Jodi works in risk and compliance and Jayme is a commercial banker – but we both have faced similar challenges in previous companies and roles in the male-dominated banking industry. We know what it’s like to be the only women in the department, and often the only woman in the room. We’ve felt isolated when our teams and bosses don’t understand or experience the same challenges we face in our careers. And we’ve watched our engagement and motivation start to flicker when working in environments that didn’t prioritize women team members.
As a result, we sought support through other women who have helped shape our career trajectories as traditional mentors and in formal networking groups, informal social groups and female-focused professional organizations. Sometimes it was even women who blazed the trail or supervisors who went to battle for us advocating for a promotion or raise. While our specific experiences are different, we both can attribute so much of our career growth and success to these relationships and how they helped us build connection, find purpose, spark inspiration and push ourselves in our career aspirations. It’s also one of many reasons we launched a women’s employee resource group at the bank a few years ago.
Now in its second year, EmpowHER strives to help women at all levels and across all departments of the bank advance in ways that positively impact their personal or professional goals. We recently held an event aimed at building relationships with other women across the company and one focused on self-development, sharing tips for virtual meetings and staying connected with team members in our hybrid environment. These events generated great response, especially at a time when many women have been lacking connection.
Self-advocacy is another topic that’s top of mind for many women, and we’re planning events and resources to help women get more comfortable with negotiating, promoting themselves, having crucial conversations and other soft skills that help people advance in their careers.
How women’s groups can make an impact
While the bank has always been inclusive, we believe EmpowHER builds upon this culture and has helped elevate and, well, empower women beyond their day-to-day job functions. Our women team members are connecting through EmpowHER to form mentor relationships, have more authentic conversations and encourage each other to reach higher. We know women can be in leadership roles at all levels of the company because we see women in leadership. Women throughout the bank support, sponsor and advocate for other women doing great work, and we see the organization prioritizing women’s experiences and concerns.
Groups like EmpowHER are good for companies. When women feel supported, they’re more engaged, and we all know that engaged employees drive better business results, increase profitability and decrease turnover. Not to mention, EmpowHER has become a recruitment tool, even helping attract women to traditionally male-held positions. In our conservative industry, it’s important for us to show that we’re progressive, open to having tough conversations on these issues, and then working to improve areas when needed.
We hope EmpowHER becomes one of the key resources that make an impact in our team members’ career advancement. It’s powerful to think about the difference a group like this could have made at the earliest stages of our careers – and humbling to know we have the opportunity to build this resource for others.
Jodi Selby is vice president and senior risk operations and compliance manager, and Jayme Fry is vice president, commercial relationship manager at Bankers Trust. Together, Jodi and Jayme serve as co-chairs for EmpowHER, the bank’s women-led and women-focused employee resource group, which addresses and encourages female representation at all levels of the company.